HAROLD BURRAGE (By Shaun Mather)

Born Harold Edwin Burrage, 30 March 1931, Chicago, Illinois
Died 25 November 1966, Chicago, Illinois

Pianist Harold Burrage started out singing blues and R&B during the 1950s and ended up as a linchpin of the emerging Chicago soul sound of the '60s; he made recordings in both styles and more than a few idiomatic shades in between. Burrage mentored young soul singers Otis Clay and Tyrone Davis, but never had a chance to see them fully blossom. Burrage's first record was in 1950 with a jumping "Hi-Yo Silver" for Decca. Further singles followed for Aladdin and States before he joined Eli Toscano's Cobra label. His spell at the label saw him recruit some sterling guitarists on his sessions. In 1956, Burrage cut the amusing "You Eat Too Much" for Cobra, backed by a solid combo featuring guitarist Wayne Bennett (Bobby Bland band) and bass legend Willie Dixon. For 1957's "Messed Up," he used Jody Williams while "Stop for the Red Light," his third Cobra 45, was a novelty complete with auto-wreck sound effects. "Betty Jean," his last Cobra single, is unabashed rock & roll, with Otis Rush on guitar. Burrage also served as a session pianist for Cobra, backing Magic Sam and Charles Clark. He moved to Vee-Jay and cut a storming "Crying for My Baby" but by the early 60's he was with One-derful's M-Pac! subsidiary and had moved into a soul groove. His only national R&B hit (# 31) came in 1965 with the driving "Got to Find a Way" which was later revived by one of protégés, Otis Clay.

(Adapted from All-Music Guide.) CD : Messed Up! : The Cobra Recordings, 1956-58 (Westside WESM 634) 17 tracks.

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